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Toyo Ito - Design Philosophy of His Notable Projects

Have you ever been told that your design is far too modern and complicated and didn't "fit the context of our time"? Well, Ito's work will be quite the inspiration for you to stand out.

Toyo Ito, a Japanese architect, had a unique style that is distinguished by a fusion of traditional Japanese building features with modern ideas and techniques. 

“Architecture tends to be too conventional and is often out of touch with time and social context, especially in cases of public buildings. In order to lessen this gap, we must be sensitive to the air of the era and society.”

- Toyo Ito

Ito's Philosophy and Works

1. Architecture as a Tool for Transformation

Ito believed architecture can change, re-structure and transform the society we live in.

The Soma City Home by Toyo Ito

The Soma City Home, a community center designed by Toyo Ito is a great example of this. He built a space that was home for all and designed the roof to resemble a tree for children to have a sense of playing outdoors.

2. Architecture Should be Contextual to Geography and Time

While it is crucial to keep in touch with culture and nature, it is equally important for architecture to go with the flow of time.

Otani Iron Works Awaji Plant
Otani Iron Works Awaji Plant by Toyo Ito

The Otani Iron Works Awaji Plant has a modern facade that is true to its time and aesthetics. Throughout the design, there are minimal nods to modernity. The use of steel structures and glass facades shows his adaptation to the newer available materials in the industry.

3. The Space Should Meet the Needs of Users

More than creating mesmerizing structures, the purpose of our work is to recognize the requirements and desires of those who will use and dwell in these structures.

Interior Design of Yakushiji Temple Jikido by Toyo Ito
Interior Design of Yakushiji Temple Jikido by Toyo Ito

The Yakushi Temple Jikido houses well-lit ceiling panels and recessed luminaires to imitate sun filtering from the clouds for the prayer hall. Simple circulation and symmetrical layout make it user-friendly and quite appealing.

4. Incorporation of Natural Elements:

Doing this not only produces more beautiful and habitable spaces but also aids in minimizing the environmental effect of structures. Ito does this by incorporating organic materials or the inclusion of outside areas like courts and parks.

'Meguri no Mori'Kawaguchi City Funeral Hall

Toyo ito tried to recreate the feel of being in the 'forest of meditation' through this project. The water body behind the building seamlessly integrates with the thin fluidic structure of the building.

5. Openness

Large open courtyards are a repetitive occurrence in Ito's buildings. The U House demonstrates Ito's architectural style of organic architecture, openness, and fluidity. 

The White U House by Toyo Ito
The White U House by Toyo Ito

Although the space was located in a densely populated neighborhood, the clients wished for open space and privacy. The house curves around a central courtyard forming the letter ‘U’. Every angle of the home looks out onto the courtyard. A bridge spans the courtyard, which has a tree, a shallow pond, and a bamboo garden, connecting the two wings.

6. Functionality Through Architecture

Toyo's efforts to incorporate functionality into the design are fruitful in creating transformational architecture.

Odate Dome - Akita, Japan (1997)
Odate Dome - Akita, Japan (1997)

Odate Dome is inspired by the traditional Japanese drum, ‘taiko’. The dome's white hue symbolizes the drum's pure and clear sound, while the stadium's round roof design alludes to the drum's rounded shape. The stadium's playing surface is made of artificial turf, and it includes a retractable roof composed of a series of triangular panels that may be opened or shut in response to the weather.

The architectural works of Toyo Ito challenge our perceptions of the built environment and how we fit within it by erasing the distinctions between inside and out, public and private, and natural and artificial.

His work embraces the notion that architecture is not just about function but also about meaning. And that is an important takeaway as we continure to learn through Architecture.

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